Tana, as it is affectionately called, is a colourful and vibrant city full of people, vehicles, noise and chaos. It is certainly worth spending a few days here getting to grips with the unique Malagasy culture and visiting many of the historical and archaeological sites. There are colourful markets and hawkers everywhere selling anything and everything under the sun. The French have left their mark with some wonderful towered cathedrals and beautiful architecture and there are some fascinating cultural sites and museums.
Antananarivo is the capital of Madagascar and is the island's political and economic centre. It is located on the inland plateau in the centre of the country, peaking at 2643m above sea level with an average altitude of around 1400m. Houses climb up the hillsides and at first glance, the derelict yet delightful city appears to be crumbling down the mountain.
Antananarivo was once called Analamanga (Blue Forest) and got its name from its tumultuous history. The Vazimba people once inhabited this region until the Merina tribe, led by King Andrianjaka, annexed the region. Andrianjaka positioned an army of 1000 men to defend the land and hence the settlement came to be known as Antananarivo, ‘Place of 1000 Warriors’.
The town is divided into two distinct parts: Upper Town and Lower Town. The former is higher up on the hillside, with an umbrella of jacaranda trees in summer, a collection of arts and craft markets, jewelers and more. The Lower Town is more populated, with a pedestrian boulevard encompassing all sorts of shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and general bonhomie. This is where most of the hustle and bustle of Antananarivo occurs.
Antananarivo is generally a stopover on the way to the coast but it does have a range of luxury hotels and rustic guesthouses to ensure you can start and finish your Madagascar trip in style!